Hard bop

Last updated

Hard bop is a subgenre of jazz that is an extension of bebop (or "bop") music. Journalists and record companies began using the term in the mid-1950s [1] to describe a new current within jazz that incorporated influences from rhythm and blues, gospel music, and blues, especially in saxophone and piano playing.


David H. Rosenthal contends in his book Hard Bop that the genre is, to a large degree, the natural creation of a generation of African-American musicians who grew up at a time when bop and rhythm and blues were the dominant forms of black American music. [2] :24 Prominent hard bop musicians included Horace Silver, Clifford Brown, Charles Mingus, Art Blakey, Cannonball Adderley, Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Hank Mobley, Thelonious Monk and Tadd Dameron.

Hard bop is sometimes referred to as "funky hard bop". [1] [3] The "funky" label refers to the rollicking, rhythmic feeling associated with the style. [3] The descriptor is also used to describe soul jazz, which is commonly associated with hard bop. [1] [3] According to Mark C. Gridley, soul jazz more specifically refers to music with "an earthy, bluesy melodic concept and... repetitive, dance-like rhythms. Some listeners make no distinction between 'soul-jazz' and 'funky hard bop,' and many musicians don't consider 'soul-jazz' to be continuous with 'hard bop.'" [1] The term "soul" suggests the church, and traditional gospel music elements such as "amen chords" (the plagal cadence) and triadic harmonies that seemed to suddenly appear in jazz during the era. [3]


According to Nat Hentoff in his 1957 liner notes for the Art Blakey Columbia LP entitled Hard Bop, the phrase was originated by music critic and pianist John Mehegan, jazz reviewer of the New York Herald Tribune at that time. Hard bop first developed in the mid-1950s, and is generally seen as originating with the Jazz Messengers, a quartet led by pianist Horace Silver and drummer Art Blakey. [3] [4] Some saw hard bop as a response to cool jazz and West Coast jazz. [4] As Paul Tanner, Maurice Gerow, and David Megill explain, "the hard bop school... saw the new instrumentation and compositional devices used by cool musicians as gimmicks rather than valid developments of the jazz tradition." [3] However, Shelly Manne suggested that cool jazz and hard bop simply reflected their respective geographic environments: the relaxed cool jazz style reflected a more relaxed lifestyle in California, while driving bop typified the New York scene. [5] Some writers, such as James Lincoln Collier, suggest that the style was an attempt to recapture jazz as a form of African American expression. [6] Whether or not this was the intent, many musicians quickly adopted the style, regardless of race. [3]

Michael Cuscuna maintains that Silver and Blakey's efforts were in response to the New York bebop scene:

Both Art and Horace were very, very aware of what they wanted to do. They wanted to get away from the jazz scene of the early '50s, which was the Birdland scene—you hire Phil Woods or Charlie Parker or J. J. Johnson, they come and sit in with the house rhythm section, and they only play blues and standards that everybody knows. There's no rehearsal, there's no thought given to the audience. Both Horace and Art knew that the only way to get the jazz audience back and make it bigger than ever was to really make music that was memorable and planned, where you consider the audience and keep everything short. They really liked digging into blues and gospel, things with universal appeal. So they put together what was to be called the Jazz Messengers. [7]

David Rosenthal sees the development of hard bop as a response to both a decline in bebop and the rise of rhythm and blues:

The early fifties saw an extremely dynamic Rhythm and Blues scene take shape.... This music, and not cool jazz, was what chronologically separated bebop and hard bop in ghettos. Young jazz musicians, of course, enjoyed and listened to these R & B sounds which, among other things, began the amalgam of blues and gospel that would later be dubbed 'soul music.' And it is in this vigorously creative black pop music, at a time when bebop seemed to have lost both its direction and its audience, that some of hard bop's roots may be found. [2] :24

A key recording in the early development of hard bop was Silver's composition "The Preacher", which was considered "old-timey" or "corny", such that Blue Note head Alfred Lion was hesitant to record the song. [2] :38 [7] However, the song became a successful hit. [7]

Miles Davis, who had performed the title track of his album Walkin' at the inaugural Newport Jazz Festival in 1954, would form the Miles Davis Quintet with John Coltrane in 1955, becoming prominent in hard bop before moving on to other styles. [4] Other early documents were the two volumes of the Blue Note albums A Night at Birdland , also from 1954, recorded by the Jazz Messengers at Birdland months before the Davis set at Newport. Clifford Brown, the trumpeter on the Birdland albums, formed the Brown-Roach Quintet with drummer Max Roach. Other musicians who contributed prominently to the hard bop style include Donald Byrd, Tina Brooks, Sonny Clark, Lou Donaldson, Kenny Drew, Benny Golson, Dexter Gordon, Johnny Griffin, Joe Henderson, Freddie Hubbard, Jackie McLean, Blue Mitchell, Hank Mobley, Thelonious Monk, Lee Morgan, Carl Perkins, [3] Bud Powell, Sonny Rollins, and Sonny Stitt.

The hard bop style enjoyed its greatest popularity in the 1950s and 1960s. Even now, hard bop performers and elements of the music remain popular in jazz.

See also

Related Research Articles

Jazz is a music genre that originated in the African-American communities of New Orleans, Louisiana, United States, in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, with its roots in blues and ragtime. Since the 1920s Jazz Age, it has been recognized as a major form of musical expression in traditional and popular music, linked by the common bonds of African-American and European-American musical parentage. Jazz is characterized by swing and blue notes, complex chords, call and response vocals, polyrhythms and improvisation. Jazz has roots in West African cultural and musical expression, and in African-American music traditions.

Bebop Subgenre of jazz music originated in the United States in mid-1940s

Bebop or bop is a style of jazz developed in the early to mid-1940s in the United States, which features compositions characterized by a fast tempo, complex chord progressions with rapid chord changes and numerous changes of key, instrumental virtuosity, and improvisation based on a combination of harmonic structure, the use of scales and occasional references to the melody.

Blue Note Records American record label; main imprint of Blue Note Records, Inc.

Blue Note Records is an American jazz record label owned by Universal Music Group and operated under Capitol Music Group. Established in 1939 by Alfred Lion and Max Margulis, it derived its name from the blue notes of jazz and the blues. Originally dedicated to recording traditional jazz and small group swing, the label switched its attention to modern jazz around 1947.

Horace Silver American jazz pianist and composer

Horace Ward Martin Tavares Silver was an American jazz pianist, composer, and arranger, particularly in the hard bop style that he helped pioneer in the 1950s.

Lou Donaldson American saxophonist

Lou Donaldson is a retired American jazz alto saxophonist. He is best known for his soulful, bluesy approach to playing the alto saxophone, although in his formative years he was, as many were of the bebop era, heavily influenced by Charlie Parker.

Tadd Dameron

Tadley Ewing Peake Dameron was an American jazz composer, arranger, and pianist.

Soul jazz

Soul jazz is a development of jazz incorporating strong influences from blues, soul, gospel and rhythm and blues in music for jazz combo, often an organ trio featuring a Hammond organ.

Cool jazz is a style of modern jazz music that arose in the United States after World War II. It is characterized by relaxed tempos and lighter tone, in contrast to the fast and complex bebop style. Cool jazz often employs formal arrangements and incorporates elements of classical music. Broadly, the genre refers to a number of post-war jazz styles employing a more subdued approach than that found in other contemporaneous jazz idioms. As Paul Tanner, Maurice Gerow, and David Megill suggest, "the tonal sonorities of these conservative players could be compared to pastel colors, while the solos of [Dizzy] Gillespie and his followers could be compared to fiery red colors."

Tina Brooks

Harold Floyd "Tina" Brooks was an American hard bop, blues, and funk tenor saxophonist and composer.

Sonny Stitt

Edward Hammond Boatner Jr., known professionally as Sonny Stitt, was an American jazz saxophonist of the bebop/hard bop idiom. Known for his warm tone, he was one of the best-documented saxophonists of his generation, recording more than 100 albums. He was nicknamed the "Lone Wolf" by jazz critic Dan Morgenstern because of his relentless touring and devotion to jazz. Stitt was sometimes viewed as a Charlie Parker mimic, especially earlier in his career, but gradually came to develop his own sound and style, particularly when performing on tenor saxophone.

Sonny Criss American jazz musician

William "Sonny" Criss was an American jazz musician.

Dillon "Curley" Russell was an American jazz musician who played bass on many bebop recordings.

West Coast jazz refers to styles of jazz that developed in Los Angeles and San Francisco during the 1950s. West Coast jazz is often seen as a subgenre of cool jazz, which consisted of a calmer style than bebop or hard bop. The music relied relatively more on composition and arrangement than on the individually improvised playing of other jazz styles. Although this style dominated, it was not the only form of jazz heard on the American West Coast.

Straight-ahead jazz refers to jazz music that eschews the rock music influences that began to appear in jazz during the late 1960s. Instead, performance relies on walking bass and swinging ride patterns. AllMusic describes how, according to purists, jazz fusion was not "real" jazz, and straight-ahead jazz came to describe music that did not employ fusion's innovations, such as rock beats and electric instruments. Tanner, Gerow and Megill trace the "straight-ahead" aesthetic back to the hard bop era, after which some musicians would continue to be guided by jazz tradition when faced with boundary-pushing innovations.

Neo-bop refers to a style of jazz that gained popularity in the 1980s among musicians who found greater aesthetic affinity for acoustically-based, swinging, melodic forms of jazz than for free jazz and jazz fusion that had gained prominence in the 1960s and 1970s. It contains elements of bebop, hard bop, and modal jazz. As both neo-bop and post-bop categories denote eclectic mixtures of styles from the bebop and post-bebop eras, the standards for separating the two categories are not clear. In the United States neo-bop is associated with Wynton Marsalis and "The Young Lions," although they have also been referred to as post-bop. Neo-bop was also embraced by established musicians who either ignored the avant-garde and fusion movements, or returned to music based on more traditional styles after experimenting with them. The return to more traditionally-based styles earned praise and also criticism. Miles Davis called it "warmed over turkey" and others deemed it to be too dependent on the past. The movement, however, received praise from Time magazine and others who welcomed the return of more accessible forms of jazz. There were also those who deemed it a valid evolution from hard bop.

Carl Perkins was an American jazz pianist.

<i>Horace Silver and the Jazz Messengers</i> Album

Horace Silver and the Jazz Messengers is a 1956 repackage of 1955 10” LPs by jazz pianist Horace Silver with drummer Art Blakey and featuring Hank Mobley on tenor saxophone, Kenny Dorham on trumpet, and Doug Watkins on bass. By the time this repackage was released, this quintet had named themselves the Jazz Messengers, and the band name on the label reflected that. These recordings helped establish the hard bop style. Scott Yanow on Allmusic describes it as "a true classic". Originally released as an LP, the album has subsequently been reissued on CD several times.

1950s in jazz

By the end of the 1940s, the nervous energy and tension of bebop was replaced with a tendency towards calm and smoothness, with the sounds of cool jazz, which favoured long, linear melodic lines. It emerged in New York City, as a result of the mixture of the styles of predominantly white swing jazz musicians and predominantly black bebop musicians, and it dominated jazz in the first half of the 1950s. The starting point were a series of singles on Capitol Records in 1949 and 1950 of a nonet led by trumpeter Miles Davis, collected and released first on a ten-inch and later a twelve-inch as the Birth of the Cool. Cool jazz recordings by Chet Baker, Dave Brubeck, Bill Evans, Gil Evans, Stan Getz and the Modern Jazz Quartet usually have a "lighter" sound which avoided the aggressive tempos and harmonic abstraction of bebop. Cool jazz later became strongly identified with the West Coast jazz scene, but also had a particular resonance in Europe, especially Scandinavia, with emergence of such major figures as baritone saxophonist Lars Gullin and pianist Bengt Hallberg. The theoretical underpinnings of cool jazz were set out by the blind Chicago pianist Lennie Tristano, and its influence stretches into such later developments as Bossa nova, modal jazz, and even free jazz. See also the list of cool jazz and West Coast musicians for further detail.

"Doodlin'" is a composition by Horace Silver. The original version, by Silver's quintet, was recorded on November 13, 1954. It was soon covered by other musicians, including with lyrics added by Jon Hendricks. It has become a jazz standard.


  1. 1 2 3 4 Gridley, Mark C. (1994), Ron Wynn (ed.), All Music Guide to Jazz , M. Erlewine, V. Bogdanov, San Francisco: Miller Freeman, pp.  11–12, ISBN   0-87930-308-5
  2. 1 2 3 Rosenthal, David H. (1992), Hard Bop: Jazz and Black Music 1955-1965, New York: Oxford Univ., ISBN   0-19-505869-0
  3. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 Tanner, Paul O. W.; Maurice Gerow; David W. Megill (1988) [1964]. "Hard Bop — Funky". Jazz (6th ed.). Dubuque, IA: William C. Brown, College Division. pp.  112–121. ISBN   0-697-03663-4.
  4. 1 2 3 Case, Brian (2006) [1997], "The Harder They Come", in Roy Carr (ed.), A Century of Jazz: A Hundred Years of the Greatest Music Ever Made, London: Hamlyn, pp.  106–121, ISBN   0-681-03179-4
  5. Manne, Shelly. "Jazz: American Classic" (Interview: video). Interviewed by Reginald Buckner. Cited in Tanner et al, p. 113.
  6. Collier, James Lincoln (1978), The Making of Jazz, New York: Dell, pp. 435–453. Cited in Tanner et al, p. 112.
  7. 1 2 3 Schaffer, Dean (2010-08-20). "Secrets of the Blue Note Vault: Michael Cuscuna on Monk, Blakey, and the One That Got Away". Collectors Weekly . Market Street Media LLC. Retrieved 2010-11-11.